AICSA calls for immediate Federal and State arts rescue packages

Arts Industry Council of South Australia (AICSA) urges immediate action from both Federal and State Governments to address the crisis facing our sector. Without this, the viability of the sector – and the mental health of the arts community – are in great peril. No state understands the interdependence between the arts sector, hospitality, events and other industry employment, as well as South Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an international emergency requiring urgent action, including social distancing and self-isolation. Like our colleagues around the world, the Australian arts, entertainment and tourism sectors have rapidly responded.

Arts institutions, venues and festivals have closed their doors and cancelled their programs, demonstrating much needed leadership to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19. These actions, while absolutely necessary, mean the arts sector in Australia is facing an unprecedented crisis from the economic impact of COVID-19.

As of 3pm on 19 March, I Lost My Gig Australia has logged the total lost income from cancelled events at $200M; people impacted by event cancellations at 400k; and number of cancelled gigs/events at 220k. These numbers will continue to grow. Individual and independent artists, artist collectives, and freelance and casual workers will be the most severely impacted by this devastating loss of income. Urgent government action is critical to address this crisis.

Yesterday, on 19 March, an emergency meeting of Arts and Cultural Ministers was held. This week the whole sector, through peak bodies such as Live Performance Australia, National Association of the Visual Arts, Theatre Network Australia and others, have urged the Australian Government to announce an emergency industry support package. No such decision was made yesterday. In fact, the only commitment made in the communique from the meeting was to reconvene at some stage in the future.

AICSA is very disappointed by the lack of concrete outcomes from yesterday’s meeting. Like our colleagues nationally we call for:

  • A timeline for urgent action by the Federal Government and their State counterparts;
  • An emergency support package for the arts sector.

AICSA is pleased that the Government of South Australia is urgently working towards an announcement of a South Australian support package. We encourage the Government to announce their COVID-19 initiatives as soon as possible and to pursue the Arts Plan, created from extensive consultation with the sector, with new funding. What our sector needs is already known and ready to go.

State initiatives must include:

  • Additional, simple and immediate funding for freelance artists and creative professionals;
  • Flexibility around existing and new funding contracts with both organisations and artists;
  • A focus on employment of artists and other creative professionals in all new initiatives;
  • Developing digital platforms and securing equipment/technologies required for our new reality;
  • And supporting the mental health of our sector.

The arts sector has shown enormous leadership in responding to this health crisis. Our actions will ensure more people will survive, especially those most vulnerable to this novel coronavirus. Federal and State Governments need to respond in kind. Statements without actions are not good enough. Our sector needs real, tangible support now. Without action the arts industry in Australia faces decimation – materially and psychologically – unlike anything we have ever experienced.

To all of our members and community, stay well and safe and there is support if you need it.

Support Act Wellbeing Helpline 1800 959 500 – a free, confidential service, available 24/7 to anyone who works in the performing arts.

If you are anxious or in distress there is assistance at the other end of the phone. Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or visit Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak’ from Beyond Blue.

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk, please contact the Emergency Services on 000.

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